The minor leagues serve many purposes but as a fan of the Mets, my interest in the minors is strictly in developing players for the major league club, whether for the 25-man roster or for use in trades. There’s no right way to develop prospects and what might be proper for Player A could be disastrous for Player B. Understanding that, it seems that each organization should have a basic guideline on how to handle prospects. Here’s what mine would be for the Mets.
The Mets have three short-season league teams with clubs in the Gulf Coast League, the Appalachian League and the New York-Penn League. The Mets have a definite hierarchy, with Brooklyn being their top club and the Gulf Coast Mets being their bottom club. To me, these clubs are treated too much like separate levels, especially when it comes to guys with a major league future.
If any team should be considered different among these three, it should be the GCL entry. The Mets should use their GCL franchise for guys coming up from the Dominican or any other young international free agents and be supplemented with lower round high school picks and anyone recovering from an injury or who needs special attention/coaching.
The APPY franchise should be used for the best international free agents making their debut, the less-heralded guys from the previous season’s GCL team and high school picks from the current year’s draft. The NYP franchise should be used for college picks from the current draft, less-heralded guys from the previous year’s APPY team and an occasional international player.
New York has two A-ball teams, with the Lo-A Savannah Sand Gnats and the Hi-A St. Lucie Mets. Generally speaking about guys you hope will wind up in the majors, high school players the year after they’re drafted should be in Savannah and college players should be in St. Lucie at the start of the season. Savannah should also be the entry point into full-season ball for most international players.
Double-A & Triple-A
The Mets have to be careful with their top pitching prospects and be aware that pitching in Las Vegas is at best a challenging situation. Sandy Alderson is already on record saying that he wants pitchers to have at least 150 IP in the upper levels before they come to the majors. At this point it would not be the worst thing in the world if these pitchers had 125 IP in Binghamton and 25 IP in Las Vegas. Even for hitters, ones who prove themselves at Double-A should be considered eligible for a promotion to the majors if the coaches feel they are ready for things. If hot-shot prospect puts up a .325-425-.600 line in Double-A, chances are he’s going to do just fine hitting in the Pacific Coast League. So, if the player is ready and the need is there – send him to the majors and do not worry about logging Triple-A experience.
Finally, run a star system. The Mets should slot their top prospects where their development says they need to be and fill in around them. If Dominic Smith is ready for Hi-A – that’s where he goes. He doesn’t go to Lo-A because last year’s Lo-A first baseman put up a .750 OPS and has a starting spot in Hi-A as his birthright.
When the Mets drafted Gavin Cecchini in 2012, they sent him to the APPY, where he did not dominate but he did not embarrass himself, either. My preference for the first-round pick would have been for him to get a full season’s worth of ABs in Savannah. Instead, the Mets held him back in Extended Spring Training and sent him to Brooklyn. Cecchini ended up getting hurt and only got 212 PA in this season.
If he started in Lo-A he would have had twice that many PA, even with the injury. Some will say that Cecchini’s less than glowing season at the plate was proof that he wasn’t ready for a full-season league. Perhaps they’re right. Or perhaps with 200-something more chances to bat he would have found his stride. Ultimately, it’s a question that cannot be answered. However, the bottom line for me is that young guys need to play and they should not be in short-season leagues any longer than they have to be.
Now let’s talk about some individual players. David Groveman is going to join me and we’ll discuss individual players and where we think they should open the 2014 season.
David – I would start Syndergaard in Las Vegas. I think that while he might get scuffed by the PCL a little that it might also help to discover the final flaws in his game. Plus if he can manage a sub 4.00 ERA in AAA Vegas he can do it in Citi Field.
Brian – I’m okay if Syndergaard starts in Triple-A. Without knowing the crunch for positions and if it hits one level more than another, I would probably start him in Double-A.
David – If Fulmer goes to Port St. Lucie he only needs two or three solid starts to earn a promotion.
Brian – I don’t get starting a player at the beginning of the year at one level with the idea that three starts could earn him a promotion. I would start him at Hi-A and expect a mid-season promotion to Double-A.
David – I don’t put Smith in Savannah; while I think he could handle it, I think that I’d prefer he play in Brooklyn and skip Savannah than having him skip Brooklyn.
Brian – Smith should be in a full season league. To me the question is Lo-A versus Hi-A. As a high school guy I send him to Lo-A Savannah.
David – Rosario belongs in Brooklyn… unless we can trade Cecchini.
Brian – In a perfect world I would place Rosario at Savannah but as Cecchini was slow-played last year, that’s where he’ll be at in 2014. Rosario goes to Brooklyn by default and there’s no reason to have him repeat at Kingsport.
David – I think Tapia proved he was up to the task of pitching in A+ in 2013 but that he still hasn’t shown the durability to pitch a full season as a starter. I’d put him in AA and switch him to relief when he starts showing signs of fatigue.
Brian – I was bullish on Tapia coming into the 2013 season but he had a pretty poor year overall. His walk rate is killing him and I don’t see that getting better with a promotion to Binghamton or a move to the pen. I send him back to Hi-A and keep him as a SP at the start of 2014.
Here are some other thoughts from David to finish out this piece:
Dilson Herrera is a Top Tier prospect so his development takes precedence. I would consider Mazzilli in A+ as the 3B/SS/2B to begin grooming him for a future IF role, but that is being a BIT hasty. It wouldn’t hurt to keep Mazzilli and Cecchini together in Savannah and let double-play tandem continue to work together.
David – You might see it, but I think it would be handled like Robert Gsellman. Where they start in Savannah and then go to Brooklyn when short-season starts up.
Brian – Is there a case for Steven Matz in Double-A given his age?
David – Is there a case? YES, but I don’t think you do that. For one, there is little room in Bringhamton’s rotation, for another, I’d prefer to see a mid-year promotion.